In 2014 a memorial was unveiled in Berlin remembering the deaths of over 300,000 physically and mentally disabled people. How did they die? They were put to death by their neighbors, fellow human beings all. Why? They were designated by the state as Lebensunwertes Leben, “life unworthy of life.” In 1939 proponents of death as the solution to the “truth” that “not every life is worth living,” began by targeting only disabled infants and toddlers. Advocates of industrial capacity killing quickly expanded qualifications for “relief” to young men and women up to age seventeen. Shortly thereafter, at the direction of The Führer Chancellery, an official, but secret program, Operation T4, was authorized by executive order to protect physicians, medical staff, administrators from prosecution, while expanding the program to include all disabled adults. Led by Chancellery Director Phillip Bouhler and Doctor Karl Brandt, six adult processing facilities were established to expand capacity. As the war ground on, the T4 program further expanded to offer “solutions” for geriatric patients, injured bombing victims, and foreign slave laborers who, because of injuries, disease, malnutrition, or simple physical exhaustion, were no longer capable of productive work.
Curiously, though the T4 program was legal, bureaucrats, medical staff, and front-line workers adopted a complex set of secrecy measures and a bizarre euphemistic vocabulary to conceal what they were doing and why. Perhaps it is a measure of our cultural “progress” that such secrecy is no longer thought necessary.
The next time you meet a young person with Cerebral Palsy, Downs Syndrome, Sickle cell anemia, Cystic Fibrosis, or Spina Bifida, it might be enlightening to ask them, or their parents, what their take is on the “truth” that “Not Every Life Is Worth Living.” My guess is they “just don’t get it” either.
VOL. 112, NO. 21 - May 25, 2022